Inside The Birds: Who’s The Other Starter At LB?
The Eagles made an important move last week, bringing a familiar face back to their offense.
On the latest Inside The Birds Podcast, Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan discuss the signing of Richard Rodgers and what it means for the tight end situation along with continuing their positional preview with a focus at linebacker.
Geoff Mosher: “The Eagles have brought back Richard Rodgers and that to me is a good thing. He’s going to be your backup tight end and now you have some pretty good competition for the No. 3 tight end. I feel better about the tight end picture assuming still that Zach Ertz is not going to be a part of it, because you wouldn’t want a rookie free agent, or one of these project guys like Tyree Jackson or even Jason Croom, who hasn’t been playing long, to be your second tight end if Dallas Goedert got hurt.”
Adam Caplan: “Just to give you a little bit of an overview of the tight end position right now, they have eight tight ends under contract. You can eliminate four of them in Croom, [Caleb] Wilson, [Hakeem] Butler and [Tyree] Jackson, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be on the team in the fall. Butler is a developmental project, Tyree Jackson is a major developmental project, he’s learning how to play the tight end position. Caleb Wilson is simply a slot tight end and so is Croom. Croom is the guy that you could say is competing against [rookie free agent Jack] Stoll, which is true. My money would be on Stoll because he is a better blocker, but Croom has experience.”
Caplan: “Does this move mean Zach Ertz is going to be traded? The answer is no, it doesn’t really impact it. They wanted Rodgers all along and we were also told that Trey Burton was on the radar as well. But Rodgers is an adequate blocker and he is a solid backup tight end.”
Mosher: “Around the draft, I reported that the Bills were a team that was interested in Zach Ertz. But around the draft I was telling you from a good source that it, for whatever reason, was unlikely to happen around the draft, which is when we kind of thought Zach would be moved. About a week and a half ago I checked in again about the potential of Zach Ertz to the Bills, if there was any movement, because it was after June 1st I thought maybe it would with the clearing of cap space. I was told there’s not much movement, which to me is different than unlikely. I can tell you the Bills are interested but for whatever reason, there have been roadblocks to getting it done. But maybe the signing of Richard Rogers signals that the Eagles do feel a little bit better about moving him, whether it’s the Bills or somebody else. But I still think that it doesn’t make any kind of sense for the Eagles to have Zach Ertz on the team, they don’t want to be a 12-personnel offense, they’re invested in their wide receivers, it’s an uncomfortable situation. So, I don’t. I just don’t see Zach Ertz being on the team.”
Trevon Grimes, Michael Walker
Mosher: “The Eagles also added Michael Walker, a wide receiver. Now they did this after they had put Trevon Grimes the rookie free agent on IR waivers, right because then he reverted back to IR?”
Caplan: “The way it works is drafted players must be waived injured. They cannot go on IR first. As soon as they go through waivers unclaimed they immediately go to injured reserve, so Grimes is on IR. The Eagles have two choices – to keep him on IR the entire season, which to me would be unlikely because he’s a guy that what you can do is play what’s called the roster tango. You reach an injury settlement with him, you have that opportunity with the agent, whoever his agent is. By the way he’s got a guarantee in this contract so they’re gonna owe him money anyway. They like the guy enough so whenever he’s healed up, let’s say it’s sometime in August, they could start getting him into practice and obviously then you have to waive him again to get him to the practice squad he’s not going to be on the team this year most likely. If they waved him again off IR and he’s not playing for a second time, they could bring him back whenever they feel the time is right, and they could let him practice whenever they think he’s ready and look at it that way.”
Caplan: “In terms of the scheme, they’re going to run a 4-2-5. Now, I don’t know who the hell is starting at linebacker other than [Eric] Wilson. Their defense has two linebackers so Wilson is going to be one of the starters, I couldn’t begin to tell you the other starter is. Could it be [Alex] Singleton? Maybe, maybe not, he’s more of a weak side and he could play middle, but when you’re playing middle in the defense where you only have two linebackers. It’s not your traditional middle. Genard Avery, as we’ve heard, has actually played pretty well playing strong side so he obviously could still play D-end if they needed him to, even though he was moved to linebacker. He has to learn how to drop and cover but from a pass rusher standpoint we’ve heard he looks good.”
Mosher: “Alex Singleton. You would have thought he would be the normal second linebacker in nickel if you’re in a 4-2-5 just based on him being the best linebacker they had last year. But it very well may be you have two different 4-2-5 looks. You have a 4-2-5 look that’s your normal base 4-2-5 and one that you want to rush the passer with more so you use that second linebacker more as an on-the-line type pass rusher like an Avery, like a [Ryan] Kerrigan. But when you don’t want to do that but you still want to be a nickel, then you might have [Wilson] and you might have Singleton out there, but it does make me wonder what that means for T.J. Edwards because he may be completely miscast in this defense altogether. He is someone who has been a good downhill linebacker, but I don’t know that the value in that without the wide nine is as much as it used to be.”
Mosher: “What we know about him is he can run like the wind, like a gazelle. He’s got the ability to cover because he can run, but that, as far as football instincts, he’s been behind. He started late, he didn’t really play a traditional linebacker type role at Colorado, he was more of an off-the-ball type linebacker and he didn’t really play very much last year. And when he did, he was not great. I get the sense though that being in a zone defense may not help him as much as being in more of a man defense because if it’s man he’ll line up against that slot tight end and you know, follow him down the field and run, but now you’ve got to drop back and you have to have spatial awareness and you have to move laterally, not just running with one specific person. I’m not saying the kid can’t do it, I’m just saying for him to have had to learn last year’s defense, which was predominantly man, and still not really be able to make much of an impact and now go to a defense that we think is going to feature a lot more zone … but listen, if Jonathan Gannon is smart, and he talks about adjusting schemes to personnel, maybe he’ll figure out a way to make sure that this guy is more in a coverage, man-type position.”
Caplan: “Jordan Hicks [possibly]. Not just Jordan Hicks, anyone with money I don’t see anything getting done until Ertz is traded, that’s what I think based on what I’ve heard. They still want to get a corner done, and after they sign all the rookies after [Landon] Dickerson, they have about $5 million in cap space. The problem with Hicks’ contract is this: it’s’ only $2 million in cash but it has some upside to it so you have to account for that. It will be fascinating to see what happens.”
Mosher: “Hicks is interesting because he has such a multifaceted skill set. He could play alongside Eric Wilson and kind of be that coverage linebacker but he can also rush the passer pretty well. He’s like a better Mychal Kendricks in that regard. He can do a little bit of everything.”
– Justin Morganstein (@jmotweets_) is a staff contributor to InsideTheBirds.com
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